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Phonemic Awareness

When we think of students who struggle to read well, we can easily see comprehension difficulties on quizzes and tests. Then, once we have the opportunity to listen to struggling readers read aloud, we often uncover word decoding deficits. What we may not discover through such assessments, though, are weaknesses in phonemic awareness that underpin the more obvious areas weaknesses.

Phonemic awareness is listening/oral skills with phonemes (individual sounds) with different levels of complexity.


1. Isolating

2. Blending

3. Segmenting

In isolation, individual phonemes within a spoken word are identified. For example, “What sound do you hear in the middle of a specific word?”

Oral blending of separate phonemes is a crucial underlying skill in reading words. For example, “I will say the sounds in a word. You guess the word.”

Segmenting a word into its separate phonemes underlies the ability to spell words. For example, “I will say a word. You tell me the sounds in the word.”


1. Adding

2. Deleting

3. Substituting

Competence in Advanced manipulation of phonemes ensures students are skilled enough at the oral phonemic level to be successful in decoding and encoding more complex words.

An example of adding: “I will say a word. You add a specific sound and say the new word.”

An example of deleting: “I will say a word. You take out a specific sound and say the new word.”

An example of substituting: “I will say a word. You change a specific sound to another specific sound and say the word.”

The Struggling Readers course includes a phonemic awareness assessment, and many activities to use in developing phonemic awareness at both the Basic and Advanced levels. For information and to register, please visit our Programs page.

To get the ball rolling before our next program start date, check out the Florida Center for Reading Research for games and activities. For virtual teaching ideas, look at the University of Florida Literacy Institute.

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